To my Granddaughters
You belong to a family of strong women, my dear granddaughters. Back a generation or two, we were the women whose husbands went off to the Gold Rush leaving us to tend to the home and children in the old west. We did it all. Grew the crops, sustained ourselves on what we grew and hunted; fended off raiding Indians and cowboys, and raised our children. We did the doctoring, education of our children, cared for any livestock we may have had, and patched up our home when needed,
Sometimes our men would come home years later, some never returned.
It is borne in our bones, courage, ability and determination. We weren't sickly nor were we weak. We did what we had to do and we did what we could.
So it was in 1965 when your grandfather and I were divorced. I took a deep breath, acknowledged that I was scared to death; looked at my sons and knew that I would do whatever it took to support, love and raise them into men. I also knew that I wouldn't be able to count on financial help from him or any one but myself.
Your father, Randy, was just 3 years old and Uncle Doug was 7 years old. It was hard on them since without a father in the home they were different from the other kids of the time. There were few divorced families in our community.
I was in my late twenties. No education to speak of. No training for jobs, but I was determined that my sons would not suffer because of my lack of ....
I believed that I could do anything I needed to do, and so I did.
I'm not saying that it was easy. It wasn't. There were nights that I cried myself to sleep. There were nights that I did not sleep. I kept my children safe, warm, fed and nurtured. I did what I could. I had made up my mind that I would enjoy my sons rather than give in to the fear of responsibility and possibility of failure.
What kept me going? Why was I successful?
My beliefs and the "stuff" given to me by the women in the family that came before.
I believed in myself and knew that with the help of God I would fulfill my goal. Setting a goal to raise my sons and provide them with a good childhood. prepare them for life and manhood was instrumental. I also knew that I needed to be aware of my needs and wants, so to this end I set goals for my personal growth and needs.
I simply never lost sight of those goals. I was 40 when I achieved one personal goal, that of traveling to Europe. It didn't matter how many years it took, I knew that I would meet my goals. This is what sustained me when times were hard. This is why I was able to wait until my sons were grown. The last ten years of my career was a dream fulfilled. I traveled and lived in Europe and across the US as part of my job!
Secondly, I learned that nothing lasted forever. This meant that when hard times hit, when I was sad and when I doubted myself, I knew that it wouldn't last forever. I rode it through, as it were, until the hard times were exchanged for happy times and then I treasured those times.
These times taught me to be happy with what I had. To have what I needed was enough. To have my dreams, goals, and myself were enough.
I learned to be happy. In doing this I was able to protect us from scammers and other people who prey on the needy, on unhappy people.
I learned not to be tempted by offers of quick money by keeping to myself when I was destitute. In this manner, drug runners, pimps and other predators did not target me or my sons.
I fought fiercely for my sons well being and safety. I earned a reputation in our neighborhood that one didn't "mess" with me or my sons. Very few people knew who I was and were quite surprised when they learned that I was actually a nice person. I wasn't afraid to have a negative reputation in order to protect my home and sons.
It took years to obtain the career that would support and feed us. I worked hard at it and at obtaining the necessary education. One year I worked 3 jobs to support us. My main clerical job; an evening job in a pizza place; and, a job as a bar waitress on Friday and Saturday nights in a small family, local bar. No legitimate job was beneath me.
Doing whatever it took to keep safe and earn, honestly what we needed.
When, finally, after several years, I earned enough to work just one main job, I had to learn how to handle my disagreement with decisions, balance my values with dictates from management and be happy in one place. That was very hard for me. I managed to stay in one place for 6 nearly 7 years. As a result, I was able to call my career shots after that. My next step was one more middle management position for 7 years. I'd "paid my dues."
For those years, I was able to work an 8 to 5 job and be physically close by to my home and sons as well as be home by 5:15 every night to be with my sons. We had a life. Everything in life is a trade off. Accepting my job and doing it well was the trade off that allowed me to be with my sons and to raise them with some normalcy.
Never asking "Why me?" Rather looking at what was, what is and thinking, "Okay. How do I handle this, keeping our needs, my goals in mind?" Than doing it. One step at a time until it is done.
You have your lives ahead of you. Just starting out to live. Know what it is you want. Know who you want to be, then go do it. Don't settle for second best or almost. Keep going until you meet your goals and needs. Until you are who you want to be.
Also know, that as you grow in knowledge, you may want to change your goals; that is okay to do as well. Just know why you are changing a goal than accept it and do it.
Strong of character. Capable. Able. Honest. Loving... and, as the women before you, keep your sense of humor. That is one quality that will get you through most anything.
The expectation that life is happy and wonderful will only disappoint you. Know that life is happiness and pain. Yin and Yang. It never remains the same forever. Expect it so that you will enjoy the good times and things in life when you have them, and treasure them.
Expect the sorrow, disappointment, change of plans, and things that you cannot control -- that also is part of life. Embrace it and know that you will get through it. Be flexible and able to change plans made that you cannot control. Let it go.
Protect yourself so that you will not blindly walk into peril and trouble. Understand that it is your choice. Educate yourself so that you will know how to choose wisely those things that are best for you. Then follow that.
Know that you are loved. You are precious and you are treasured. You mean something and are something. You are a woman with a history of strong and successful women in your blood line. You will be successful at whatever it is you want.
With so much love to you and for you,
Your paternal grandmother, Nana
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I became a woman in the 1960s. By the age of 25 I was one of the rarities for the time in that I was divorced and had two young sons to raise. Divorce was very much frowned upon. Women were suppose to marry and...